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The government of Premier Doug Ford is acting like a “bully” in its moves to slash funding to Ontario universities and stifle student voices on campuses, says a professor emeritus at the University of Saskatchewan.
In an address at Ryerson Tuesday, Len Findlay, a retired English professor and Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, also said there is a fear what is being done in Ontario will be duplicated in other provinces.
“The abusive use of the provincial spending power is the tactic of the bully — it is indefensible on all occasions. It is particularly inappropriate in dealing with students and university situations,” he said.
Findlay denounced the Ford government’s January decision to cut post-secondary tuition fees by 10 per cent in Ontario, forcing universities to slash their budgets for the upcoming academic year.
Findlay was the featured speaker at an event entitled “Defunding Difference and Dissent On Campus: Why Should Canadians Care?” held in the FCAD Catalyst Feb. 26. The event was hosted by Jim Turk, director of the Centre for Free Expression.
There is concern that the Ford government’s hostile attitude towards university funding and student protesting will spread across Canada, according to Findlay.
“All of Canada is watching Ontario,” he said. “There’s enormous concern about the implications for our other jurisdictions about what happens here — is it coming out West soon?”
In an interview with the Ryersonian, Turk agreed that Ford’s influence on post-secondary funding could quickly spread to other provinces.
“If Ford can get away with it here without paying a political price, we’re likely to see similar things happening in Nova Scotia, in Saskatchewan, in Alberta,” he said.
Findlay also spoke against the attacks Ford has levelled against the media, specifically how student papers at universities across the province could suffer after some ancillary fees will be made optional.
“The umbrella of organizations across the country that fall into the category of student papers are absolutely invaluable,” Findlay said. “It attests to the fact that there is a student voice and that voice is diverse. Why should that ever be a target?”
Turk agreed that the Progressive Conservative government’s tuition cuts will have a detrimental effect on student media.
“The real objective is for the Ford government to silence student voices. By making fees for student media and student services optional, that’s guaranteed to dramatically cut the ability of these organizations to meet students’ needs,” Turk said.
Nour Alideeb, leader of the Canadian Federation of Students Ontario, was also scheduled to speak but was not present.